The best drones for curious kids

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Toy designers throughout history have always made kids smaller versions of the latest innovations: train sets, model airplanes, and miniature cars included. Drones are being tapped by adults to do everything from take photos to deliver groceries to win a war, so it makes sense that toy developers are churning out less potent quadcopters for their children. Below, three toy drones your kids will love.

Preschoolers can get their first drone experience playing with Scoot, a simple indoor drone just under 5 inches in diameter that lights up, lifts off, and whirls around your home like a tiny flying saucer. Infrared sensors guide the drone away from obstacles, which means you can force the drone to change direction by placing your hand nearby. Scoot will take off with a simple toss into the air, and will stop when caught by your child or a confused pet. Teens and adults who are a fan of certain world-famous wizards will delight in the opportunity to levitate an object with dramatic gestures and mumbled spells. Dresses not required.

Before your kids even think about the possibilities of drones with cameras to create viral video content, they should master the basics of flight. This affordable four-propeller drone (or quadcopter) is an excellent starting point. With a diameter of only 4.5 inches, your child can pack this drone neatly inside its controller and have fun with friends learning how to make it hover, spin, and do flips both indoors and out. The shape of quadcopters can make it really difficult to distinguish the front of the drone in flight, so beginners in particular will appreciate this model’s headless mode, which uses the person controlling it as a reference point so you don’t have to know which way the drone is facing for accurate flying.

This advanced option isn’t just a kid’s toy drone—it’s a drone for adults and kids alike that sports multiple programming options. Take Tello to the park together (be sure to check local first regulations), and take photos and videos while it’s in flight, all with just your smartphone. If your teen is just learning to code, this drone works with Scratch, a visual and block-based programming language from MIT’s Media Lab. Advanced coders can do even more by downloading Tello’s software development kit. If you want to skip the smartphone, grab the version that includes a controller.